“Very superstitious, writings on the wall
Very superstitious, ladders bout to fall…” Stevie Wonder
The moon is dancing below the shadow of the pines and you spilled salt at the dinner table earlier, but all things considered, I think I know my way around the house, even at 4 a.m.
Suddenly, a blinding explosion of exquisite pain wrenches me from semi-somnambulistic reverie to shrieking reality. The dogs bolt under the bed; my Beloved grabs a magazine, ready to swat whatever Visigoth is invading our inner sanctum.
But there is no hulking medieval menace filling the doorway; only this bug-eyed moron hopping across the room, baggy boxer shorts and Beetlejuice hair flapping in all directions as bizarre incantations stream, Tourette’s-like, from snarling foaming lips.
After my impromptu performance of the one-legged pounded piggy dance, which as the name implies, involves this ritual of holding one foot in both hands while bouncing around the room and screaming marvelously inventive and anatomically impossible blasphemies, I take a moment to reflect on what just happened, and why.
Was this netherworld power in motion or just plain dumb luck?
After some cogitation, the only thing I know for sure is that the operative word is “dumb.”
My spiritual side immediately connects my failure to toss a pinch of salt over my shoulder after knocking over the shaker with my kicking a solid oak door barefooted in the dark 12 hours later.
The realist, however, has a different idea: Try turning on the bathroom light.
Now I see that Friday the 13th, the granddaddy of all superstition is nearly upon us. Half of me cringes; the other half snickers.
Ah, superstitions! Watch that black cat. Don’t break a mirror or knock over the salt. Don’t exhale during your backswing. If you don’t want to get pregnant, eat green M&Ms.
Whatever keeps your Ouija Board on speed dial, dude.
I believe superstitions remain so strong, even today, for one simple reason: We can blame all of our bad decisions, moronic thinking, gap filled reasoning on something else. In a weird way, I almost hope something bad does happen to me Friday 13th; that way it won’t be my fault. On the other hand, the operative word here is “almost”, not “absolutely.”
I know all about being careful what you wish for, ok?
I have a certain shirt I refuse to wear whenever I get a bad vibe. There is no rhyme or reason, only this vague sense of foreboding as I scan the closet. If it doesn’t feel right, I don’t wear that shirt, and that’s that.
In fact, even as I massage my throbbing piggies, I’m trying to remember if I was wearing that shirt.
Scoff all you want; superstition, silly as it sounds, is a multi-million dollar industry.
Don’t believe me? Just go to the nearest golf course. I guarantee you that 99 of 100 golfers on any course you choose will be wearing something – a hat, a wristband, a lucky glove, a unicorn hoof – that they insist improve their game. Look in any golf magazine and you’ll find hundreds of products that guarantee incredible improvements in one’s game – and they’re all making zillions.
On the other hand, I have to admit to a certain belief in karma. There’s a difference between karma and plain old superstition, in that karma implies active payback for premeditated bad actions. I do believe there’s something to this, as the following personal cautionary tale clearly illustrates.
Once, I was helping a buddy of mine build something in his workshop. We had already managed to saw several expensive pieces of wood into the correct shapes and sizes without maiming ourselves or destroying the wood and were finishing up the job; I was holding the pieces steady as he carefully hammered them together.
At some point, however, he missed the nail and smashed the very tip of his index finger instead.
You can guess what happened next. I immediately fell to the floor howling and holding my ribs as he grabbed his finger and screamed incantations – which somehow included speculations regarding my parentage – that broke windows and set off car alarms all over downtown Camden. He finished this session of speaking in tongues by prophesying that someday I would experience seven fold the same cosmic bliss he had just enjoyed.
A few weeks later, the morning after a late night gig, I would smash my bare toes not once, not twice, but seven times, against my bass guitar case – which I had leaned against the wall right outside my bedroom door, just across the hall from the open door to the music room.
You can’t tell me strange forces – most likely a pair of disco demons known as “Inebriated” and “Idiotic” -- weren’t involved. In fact, for weeks afterward I kept expecting to find a doll with a pin in its right foot amongst the empty beverage containers in the recycle bin.
I never found one like that, but a couple of months later I was awakened from a sound stupor by the sound of giggles coming from somewhere outside. Moments later, a naked female mannequin mysteriously appeared in the driver’s seat of my car even as the giggles faded eerily down the street.
Very superstitious, indeed…